Has your spouse told you your marriage was over? Maybe you don’t think there is a way that your marriage can be saved. The truth is there are thousands of marriages each year that seem to be at the brink of divorce but are saved by couples who are willing to take some simple steps to heal their marriage. So what steps can you take to heal your marriage? While it’s true you cannot change your partner, you can change your behaviors, actions and reactions.
1. Honestly evaluate yourself
When I hear a spouse tell me that their partner cheated on them and they had no idea, I remain skeptical. Why? Because happy, fulfilled spouses don’t generally cheat. Yes, there are exceptions. Yes, some spouses make mistakes, but my first thought is always to question what the other spouse did or did not do.
So if your spouse wants a divorce and is unhappy the first step is to evaluate yourself. Constructive criticism is difficult to hear; it’s even harder to evaluate what you might have done to sour the relationship. I had a friend who had children and made them the center of her life. Her spouse told her he felt neglected and unloved, but she continued to give all her love to her kids. Years later she seemed shocked that he’d found another woman who adored him.
So if your spouse strayed and had an affair it may be time to ask yourself how your actions contributed to their actions. Does it justify an affair? Absolutely not, but it does beg the question: Are you providing the same care, sexual fulfillment and attention to your spouse that you did in your dating relationship? Are you kind, pleasant and fun? Is there anything you could do to improve your attitude?
2. Empathize with your partner
The one thing you cannot control is how your partner feels. Even if you are doing all the right things your spouse may continue to feel unloved. It’s time to ask yourself if you truly understand how your spouse receives love. Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages outlines the five main ways couples receive love: acts of service, quality time, gift giving, physical touch, and words of affirmation.
It’s not unusual for spouses to give love the way they like to receive love, but if you are not giving love in the right language for your spouse, they may continue to feel unloved despite your best efforts. For example, I like my husband to sit and talk to me, turn off the television and look deeply into my eyes. That’s when I feel most cherished. You might like it when your spouse does chores for you. Others enjoy getting a beautiful bouquet of red roses. Talk to your spouse and find out how to speak their love language and don’t be afraid to tell them what you need from them.
3. Don’t give up on the marriage too soon
Divorce is too easy, and many couples duck out at the first sign of dissension. Guess what? If you have children and you remarry your life gets more complicated, not less. Why not wait it out? What is the hurry?
In the last year I have heard four women say if they had to do it again they would not have gotten the divorce. Their kids are devastated and each of them is now in a new relationship which is more complicated than the last. Guess what- if you have kids and you decide to get remarried your ex-spouse is not going anywhere. In fact, you may not have all the issues you have now, but you will have new ones, especially if you decide to marry another person with more kids. Why not give it some time?
Marriage is tough, but if you work at it and make some changes, you might just save yours.
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